Paul has a few priorities for the last few chapters of his letter to the Romans. First, he concludes the section on bearing with others with a prayer that “…the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with each other…that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” This is followed by another reminder that “Christ became a servant to the circumcised to show God’s truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for His mercy.”
The letter turns toward a conclusion in the middle of chapter 15, as Paul affirms his satisfaction for the Roman church, though on some points he has written to them “…very boldly by way of reminder…” He again affirms his desire to come to Rome, but cites his ambition “to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named” as a factor in his delay. It is apparent that he is still on his way to Jerusalem, after which he expects to visit them on the way to Spain, assuming he is “delivered from the unbelievers in Judea.” This fear is prescient, and we know from Acts that he does end up in Rome, though because of rather than in spite of those Judean unbelievers.
The final chapter is devoted primarily to greetings to and from fellow saints. He opens by introducing a patron, Phoebe, who could well be the letter’s deliverer. He then commends to them Prisca and Aquila, tentmakers who had fled Rome earlier and joined Paul in Corinth, taught Apollos in Ephesus, and were now apparently returning to their home. Among the other names there could have been additional travelling companions or brethren from around the city of hundreds of thousands of people. The greetings from Ephesus, including Paul’s scribe, host, and even the city treasurer, not only personalize the letter but place it squarely in history.
Pay attention to the final instructions and doxology. Last words in these epistles often possess a specific warning or challenge that Paul wants to make sure he includes. Today’s caution about those who cause divisions and create obstacles may be general, but connects with his instructions in the last half of this letter. And in case they need encouragement, he is confident that “The God of Peace will soon crush Satan under [their] feet.”
Our verse for this week is Genesis 1:1: In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.
Romans 15 and 16. Now let’s read it!
1:1 In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.